Do The Eagles Need To Make A Splash In Free Agency?
The Eagles are in prime position to do whatever they want when 12:01 AM strikes on Friday morning, the start of the annual free agency frenzy.
The question is, will there even be anything worth the rush?
Team president Joe Banner wrote in his column for the most-recent issue of Eagles Insider that the Eagles will be one of the top eight teams in the league in terms of salary cap space. While he didn't say how much the Eagles have at their disposal, he did indicate that there are a group of teams with an "extremely large" amount - somewhere in the $40-50 million range - of cap space.
The Eagles have their own free agents to manage - a total of nine after cornerback Joselio Hanson agreed to a five-year deal on Friday night. Six of them are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents - Correll Buckhalter, Sean Considine, Brian Dawkins, Jon Runyan, L.J. Smith and Tra Thomas. Hank Baskett and Nick Cole are restricted free agents and the Eagles have until Thursday to tender qualifying offers. Tank Daniels is about to become an exclusive rights free agent.
The deal with Hanson was just another example of the free agent pool quickly drying up before it's even open for play. Fourteen players were given the franchise tag and others like Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha and Carolina's Jordan Gross were signed to new contracts. It is unknown if the Eagles would have been in the mix if any of those players hit the market, but it's obvious that teams have the flexibility to keep their own players and they are exercising their right to do so.
Some players may hit the free agent market in the week to come in salary cap-cutting measures, sort of like how Oakland and the New York Jets purged their rosters over the weekend, as not every team is blessed with the cap room the Eagles have.
The top potential free agents include Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. As good as each player is there are questions. Will Haynesworth, who doesn't play every down and has missed a number of games in every year, give it his all in a non-contract year? Is there still gas left in the tank for Lewis, who has 13 NFL seasons under his belt? Is Houshmandzadeh really a top-tier receiver if a Chad Johnson isn't on the other side?
Plus, these positions aren't really urgent needs for the Eagles. The Eagles have a nice rotation at defensive tackle with three former top draft picks - Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley and Trevor Laws. Stewart Bradley is a good player who earned national acclaim and is on the rise at middle linebacker. Houshmandzadeh has caught 90 passes a year in the last three years. He won't put up those numbers in the Eagles offense and is he an upgrade over what the Eagles have or anything more than another complementary piece with the emergence of DeSean Jackson?
The Eagles are not shy to pull the trigger in free agency. In 2004, the Eagles brought in Jevon Kearse. In 2006, the Eagles invested in Darren Howard. In 2007, Kevin Curtis was the big-ticket item. Last year, the Eagles got who was arguably the best free agent on the market in Asante Samuel.
The Eagles have the luxury of doing what they want in free agency. The question is, outside of names, whether there is anyone worth a large investment on the market? If a number of teams have money to spend, it will just drive up the bidding price for each player. Friday morning is coming quickly. We'll see what the Eagles have up their sleeves.